Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

One of the largest cannons built in the Middle Ages: The Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

David Goran

Mons Meg, one of the largest cannons built in the Middle Ages, was employed in sieges for almost 100 years until the middle of the 16th century, after which it was only fired on ceremonial occasions.

The bombard was intended as a wedding present to King James II of Scotland, who married Duke Philip’s great niece, Mary of Gueldres, in 1457.

Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle in the 1680s, showing details of the carriage construction. Photo Credit

Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle in the 1680s, showing details of the carriage construction. Photo Credit

 

Sideview. Photo Credit

Side view. Photo Credit

 

It was capable of blasting a 150kg gunstone for 3.2km (two miles). Photo Credit

It was capable of blasting a 150kg gun store for 3.2km (two miles). Photo Credit

The six-ton muzzle-loaded cannon is capable of firing gunstones weighing 150kg a distance of nearly two miles. James IV used the weapon to besiege Dumbarton Castle, then held by the rebellious Earl of Lennox in 1489, and to attack Norham Castle in northern England.

The gun remained in Edinburgh Castle until 1754 when, along with other unused weapons in Scotland, it was taken to the Tower of London as part of the Disarming Act after the Jacobite Uprising.

Constructed around 1449 in Mons, part of what is now modern day Belgium. Photo Credit

Constructed around 1449 in Mons, part of what is now modern day Belgium. Photo Credit

 

The bombard was manufactured from longitudinal bars of iron, hooped with rings fused into one mass.. It measures over 4 m in length, with a bore of 50 cm and weighing over 6000 kg. Photo Credit

The bombard was manufactured from longitudinal bars of iron, hooped with rings fused into one mass. It measures over 4 m in length, with a bore of 50 cm and weighing over 6000 kg. Photo Credit

 

it could only be fired 8-10 times a day due to the tremendous heat generated by the powder charge required. Photo Credit

It could only be fired 8-10 times a day due to the tremendous heat generated by the powder charge required. Photo Credit

 

Mons Meg cannonballs. Photo Credit

Mons Meg cannonballs. Photo Credit

After 75 years in England, the gun was returned to Edinburgh in 1829 by order of George IV after a series of campaigns by Sir Walter Scott and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

It made a triumphant return to the castle, escorted by three troops of cavalry and infantry from the docks at Leith.

For a time it was stored at the Tower of London but it returned to Edinburgh Castle in 1829. Photo Credit

For a time it was stored at the Tower of London but it returned to Edinburgh Castle in 1829. Photo Credit

 

Mons Meg carriage detail. Photo Credit

Mons Meg carriage detail. Photo Credit

However, its great weight made it impractical to drag around in battle because it could only be moved at the rate of three miles a day. Thus it was retired and used only for ceremonial duties. Mons Meg was last fired on 14th October 1681 to celebrate the birthday of the Duke of Albany (later King James VII) when the barrel burst, effectively ending her operational life.

At the time she was considered cutting edge military technology. Photo Credit

At the time she was considered cutting edge military technology. Photo Credit

Here is another story from us: The smallest nuclear weapons built by the US Army could be fired by one man from a Bazooka-like launcher

The gun forms part of the collection of the Royal Armouries and is on loan to Historic Scotland, the organization which manages Edinburgh Castle.